We are living through unprecedented times. We don’t know when we’ll be able to stop and look back on them, because we don’t know when they’re going to end. What we do know is that the constant change, the constant dealing with the unknown, is making things tough on everyone. Including your employees. And motivation is waning. As we keep moving – hopefully – toward the end, they will need you, company leadership, to provide the motivation to come out stronger at the other end. A big “Rah! Rah!” speech or company-wide email isn’t going to do it when business has been flipped upside down. It will take more specific and intentional measures. With some sectors having serious trouble attracting employees, keeping them motivated becomes especially important in keeping them at all. While certainly not an exhaustive list, here are 7 tips for motivating employees during the pandemic:
- Exhibit Understanding and Empathy
Take the time to understand each individual’s issues. Some may be juggling work and monitoring children’s schooling, worrying about loved ones who have Covid-19 or who work in high-risk jobs, and concern for elderly relatives experiencing isolation. Once the main issues are identified, then you can work together on solutions. Helpful and empathetic leadership can give employees a greater sense of worth and increase their internal motivation.
- Create a Sense of Belonging
When people feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves, they are more likely to “give it their all.” At this point, with some people back working in their offices and others still working remotely, it will take extra effort to bring everyone together and get rid of the feeling of isolation your remote workers may be having. A sense of belonging relies heavily on communication – 2-way and transparent. Everyone must be “in the know.” Some organizations have put together COVID-19 task forces, including a group focusing on employee messaging. The more information you share, the easier employees can cope. And by soliciting their ideas and showing you don’t have all the answers, you also confirm their value.
- Enable Teamwork and Collaboration
Find the tools to get people working together to solve problems. Recognize that social collaboration tools might be second-nature to some and completely foreign to others. Let those familiar with the applications give a hand to those who aren’t. Sounds like teamwork! Then use the tools to enhance collaboration and alleviate the feeling of isolation for those working a t home and in other unfamiliar situations.
- Show Recognition and Appreciation – Genuinely
Research has shown that the main reason people are unmotivated or feel unsupported is a lack of recognition or appreciation. There are people doing amazing work during this crisis. Thank them directly for the positive contributions they are making. Make sure to encourage people to recognize each other in whatever ways are available. Management should take extra steps to recognize and, if practical, reward employees for going the extra mile to help colleagues and customers. Show employees that their work is meaningful. Share success stories that highlight great outcomes.
- Support the Person, Not Just the Employee
Most companies today are recognizing the importance of prioritizing employee well-being, and that it goes beyond the work itself into the physical, mental, emotional, and relational realms. Showing your employees that you are just as concerned for people as you are for productivity cultivates a culture of care in your organization. Care is a motivator.
- Remember Your Mission and Vision
In the midst of a pandemic many things can fall by the wayside as you find yourselves, at times, strictly in survival mode. This is when it is most important to remember what you are in business for. One way to keep everyone aligned and focused during this time of easy distraction is to start every meeting with someone reading your company’s vision out loud. Pick a new person each time. It could become a useful, motivating tradition even when everyone is back in the office.
- Give Employees the Freedom and Authority to Make Decisions
While reading and researching the topic of motivating employees, I came across a theory of motivation that you may or may not have heard of. I had not. It is called Self-Determination Theory, or SDT. An article in The Harvard Business Revue tells us it is centred on the idea that there are three main psychological needs that leaders can meet to help their employees stay engaged, confident, and motivated. These are relatedness, competence and autonomy. It is a very interesting article that I suggest anyone looking for ways to keep employees motivated in these uncertain times read. You will get great insight into the theory and how to apply it practically. Here, I will provide you with their summary:
Research shows that we are most energized and committed when we are internally motivated by our own values, sense of enjoyment, and growth — in short, internal motivation, not external structure, inspires us to be our best selves.